Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is hosting two young professionals from Bulgaria and Slovakia, part of a six-week community organizing exchange between Central Europe and the U.S.
This week CCH welcomed attorney Antoaneta Bozhikova from Bulgaria, and Zuzana Balazova, a Ph.D student and school social worker from Slovakia.
The Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development manages the organizers’ exchange, a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. CCH has hosted 10 Central European organizers through the program since 2012.
Antoaneta is an attorney who serves as legal counsel in the Technical University of Sofia. She has volunteered the past two years with the Gender Project Foundation, where she is working on projects dedicated to the empowerment of women in Bulgaria.
She’s also engaged in Civil Discussion for Change, a project tackling problems within the Bulgarian legal system, electoral legislation, direct democracy and other issues. Antoaneta recently was chosen to represent the project before members of parliament and ministers. She is also active in the Pro European Network, which focuses its work on community organizing.
Zuzana is a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Elisabeth in Bratislava. A member of the Roma community, she is an elementary school social worker and active in organizations seeking to integrate Roma people into Slovakian life.
That includes Zuzana’s work to co-found and chair a non-profit called Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (RAVS) in Skalica. RAVS works to improve the quality of life in Romani settlements and to engage Roma people in the public life in town.
GLC sponsored four CCH organizers who traveled to Europe to train organizers working in the Roma community: Jim Field, CCH Associate Director and Director of Organizing; Associate Organizing Director Hannah Willage; Re-Entry/Latino Outreach Organizer Rachel Ramirez; and Statewide Network Organizer Jim Picchetti.
CCH staff co-led training for 18 GLC trainees on Monday. The group then dispersed to assignments at community organizations in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and West Virginia, as well as Chicago’s Access Living, Community Renewal Society, Go Bronzeville, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Service Employees International Union.
While in Chicago, the CCH organizing fellows will train with staff organizers, working under the direction of Hannah Willage.
– Anne Bowhay, Media